On September 30th, 1916, the Hells Gate Bridge opened to rail traffic over a treacherous section of the East River. Nearly a hundred years later, the thing presents Queens with a big question.
Just the facts: Construction began in March of 1912, and was completed in 1916. The design of the thing is credited to Henry Hornbostel, under the direction of Gustav Lindenthal. The Hells Gate Bridge was co-built and owned by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad company and by the Pennsylvania Railroad, but today it is the property of Amtrak. Actual passenger service wouldn’t begin until April of 1917.
The Deal: Brick Café, serving fresh Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, has been a mainstay of the Astoria community for 15 years but joined the Hells Kitchen Hospitality Group in July.
Despite the change in ownership, most of what has made this restaurant so enduring will stay the same. The staff, many of whom have been with the restaurant for at least five years, will still treat customers like family, and Chef Willie is still running the kitchen.
“We treat each other like family,” says Zoran, manager. “We know their names and families. People celebrate their special days here.”
Changes — such as a daily brunch and Wine Wednesday ($5 a glass and $25 bottles on select wines) — are designed to complement and not compete with the restaurant’s ethos.
Read about Brick Cafe’s Signature Dish after the jump… (more…)
The Deal: For any quality gastropub, the beer selection is a top priority. It follows then that Oktoberfest would be the biggest holiday. Or at least that’s the case at the Astoria gastropub Snowdonia, which has launched a new prix fixe menu for the holiday.
“Oktoberfest is our favorite holiday, in no small part because it primarily features beer, amazing Bavarian food, and more beer,” says Matthew Callahan, the community manager at the restaurant.
There are five main dishes, each served with two sides for $15. Choices for the main include Bratwurst with sauerkraut; Wiener Schnitzel (breaded veal cutlet); Sauerbraten (wine-marinated beef roast); Rouladen (flank steak stuffed with bacon, onions and pickles); and Hasenpfeffer, while the sides on offer are German potato salad, braised red cabbage, spaetzle, or green beans.
“Traditionally Oktoberfest starts in late September and runs through October,” says Callahan. “We’re starting a bit early and running it for six weeks because the menu is just that awesome.”
Read about the Oktoberfest-themed Signature Dish after the jump… (more…)
My neighborhood in Astoria, which is the little pocket that sits at the border of Woodside and Sunnyside along Northern Boulevard, has recently enjoyed a staccato rhythm somewhat different than the usual ones. Under normal circumstance, it’s car stereos and home improvement contractors supplying the beat, while lately it’s been an MTA construction project found at the intersection of Northern, 34th Avenue, and 46th Street.
Recently, one decided to follow the clanging and whirring to see what’s going on – here’s what I found… (more…)
This Friday, Hong Kong’s prolific movie director Patrick Lung Kong will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from another Asian director, Tsui Hark, at the Museum of the Moving Image. A true pioneer of Cantonese cinema, Kong wrote 14 films that he directed between 1966 and 1979 and starred in 60 films between 1958 and 2002. The museum will then screen The Story of a Discharged Prisoner (below), followed by a conversation with Kong and Hark, a native of Vietnam who remade this film. The event will kick off Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: The Cinema of Patrick Lung Kong, a nine-film series featuring rare titles imported from Hong Kong from August 15th through August 24th.
Sunday, I decided to go check out the Astoria Shore Fest. The annual event closes Shore Road, allowing Astorians the chance to mill about on the normally busy thoroughfare which sits between Astoria Park and the Hells Gate section of the East River. The event is conducted by the Astoria Park Alliance, and this year it was blessed by fantastic weather.
Ah, the great outdoors. The sun is shining. The birds are chirping. And various humans are playing ping pong on a table made from trashed materials. That’ll be the scene the next two Sundays during Astoria Park Shore Fest 2014. The NYC Department of Transportation will turn Shore Boulevard into a “temporary pedestrian street” so autos give way to live music, family activities, vendors, and random acts of fun. On August 10th, the theme will be “Taste of Astoria,” and local vendors will host an afternoon picnic. The festival continues on August 17th with “Make Shore BoulevART” as the theme. This means booths with opportunities to paint, play music, dance, and be creative. Both Sundays will feature Ping Pong in the Park. Hosted by environmental activist Lynne Serpe, racket sport enthusiasts will be able to match skills on tables created by Build it Green, a salvage warehouse on 26th Avenue.
Is it possible to create twins via cloning? Because that’s the only way to enjoy all the top-notch live music in Queens this Thursday, when the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic and the country’s best Beatles tribute band come to town.
At 7 pm, the Met — in association with SummerStage and City Parks Foundation — will host a concert in Socrates Sculpture Park featuring Mary-Jane Lee (soprano), Ginger Costa-Jackson (mezzo-soprano), and Yunpeng Wang (baritone), accompanied by Dan Saunders (pianist). They will perform arias and duets from a variety of operas. At 7:30 pm, Strawberry Fields (above), a group that former President Bill Clinton praises in his book Giving, will take its audience on a Magical Mystery Tour through the Fab Four’s biggest hits as part of the Central Astoria Local Development Corporation’s 2014 Waterfront Concert Series. Then at 8 pm, the New York Philharmonic, which is the county’s oldest symphony orchestra, will venture away from Lincoln Center to give a free concert with Strauss, Smetana, Tchaikovsky, and Alan Gilbert as the conductor in Cunningham Park.
Opera details: Metropolitan Opera Recital, Socrates Sculpture Park (below), 32-01 Vernon Boulevard, Long Island City, July 10th, 7 pm, free.
Beatles details: Strawberry Fields, Astoria Park Great Lawn, Shore Boulevard between Hell Gate Bridge and Astoria Pool, Astoria, July 10th, 7:30 pm, free.
I say this every time that the Mister rings his bells: Mrs. Softee is lonely during the torrid nights of a New York summer, wondering for whom her man plays his song. Mister Softee is no damn good, and she’s sure of it.
Pictured above is a proper “Mister Softee” truck, found on its rounds in Astoria one night, doing exactly what he told the Mrs. that he’d be up to. The mister’s wearing his proper “trade dress” and nothing is as it shouldn’t be (except that I was walking the dog and didn’t have a penny on me, so I couldn’t buy a vanilla cone with sprinkles. Frankly, the dog was more upset than me about this, but there you go.)
Of late, however, something strange has been going on in Queens – someone has been impersonating the Mister.
One thing that the good people of Queens cannot be accused of is a dearth of patriotic flag displays.
Old Glory is found waving everywhere hereabouts, and is particularly conspicuous in the lead up to the Fourth of July holiday. Independence Day in my neighborhood, Astoria, means that in between the flags, there will be a pall of BBQ smoke hanging about in the air and every neighborhood dog will be hiding in the bathtub when the sun goes down and the neighbors begin to detonate their fireworks.